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Questions to ask for simple estate planning

Data shows that 55 percent of people in America die without having a will -- a very basic aspect of overall estate planning. Most times, these people do not have any sort of moral stance against creating a will, especially considering the benefits to having one. They either plan on creating one, but put it off until it is too late, or let the perceived complexity of estate planning intimidate them so they avoid it.

Estate planning can be complex and confusing, but asking yourself a series of questions can help give you a starting point and an idea of what actions to take. Here are a few tips for Miami residents:

Do you have kids under the age of 18?

If so: Draft a will that names a legal guardian for the kids in case you are to pass away prematurely. While this likely will not happen, naming someone you trust to care for your kids is very important in estate planning.

Is your estate relatively small and fairly simple?

If so: Name a beneficiary to each asset. This is easier to do with smaller estates that value under $5 million. Simple estates mean all assets are stored in bank, brokerage and retirement accounts, or similar entities. This makes it easy to name a beneficiary for those assets.

Do you own a home or property?

If so: Taking out a trust is the best way to ensure the property gets in the right hands and isn't subjected to taxes and fees by going through probate court.

Do you want to do something special with your money once you pass away?

If so: A trust is again a good way to go. You can be more specific with a trust, like leaving a legacy for a charity or individuals after you have passed. For these situations, a trust trumps a will, as it keeps assets out of probate court.

These are just the very basics of estate planning. Consult with a competent professional to go more in-depth into the process and ensure there are no loose ends.

Source: Forbes, "A Common Sense Approach to Estate Planning," Nancy Anderson, Jan. 19, 2012

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